Berenice Marlohe and Daniel Craig in "Skyfall." (Columbia Pictures )
For what may be only a brief, shining window during the movie year, a number of recent films have earned critical raves and done well at the box office.
Where conventional wisdom has recently held that there is too often a disconnect between critical favorites and broader audiences – witness the loud critics’ hosannas versus muted box office response for “The Master” – a few recent films have hit strongly on both sides of that apparent divide.
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This weekend "Skyfall” and “Lincoln” have racked up impressive reviews and are in line for strong showings at the box office. “Skyfall,” the third James Bond adventure starring Daniel Craig, has already been a sensation at the box office internationally, and is expected to bring in at least $75 million this weekend. “Lincoln,” Steven Spielberg’s bio pic of the final months in the life of the American president, is opening in limited release before its national debut next week.
These come on the heels of other recent films such as “Argo,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Looper,” which have all enjoyed both positive reviews and strong box office performance.
“I think we’re just having a good run,” said David A. Gross, editor of the website Movie Review Intelligence, which ranks movies based on reviews of critics around the country. “We’re seeing some good commercial movies right now.”
Gross noted that there was a divide recently between the animated films “Frankenweenie” and “Hotel Transylvania,” with one getting the reviews and the other making out at the box office. “Frankenweenie” earned ratings at the review aggregation sites of 78.8 at Movie Review Intelligence, 89 at Rotten Tomatoes and 74 at Metacritic and opened to just below $11.5 million. “Hotel Transylvania” is rated 56.7, 43 and 47 at those same three sites, and opened to $42.5 million.
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Next weekend sees the opening of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2,” which is something of a sure thing to get audiences to turn out but is perhaps on shakier ground with critics. (“Breaking Dawn Part 1” opened to $138 million last year but scored only 46.3, 25 and 45 with the review sites.)
Part of what might be causing this unusual late-year unity between critics and audiences is the added ingredient of awards season, noted Matt Atchity, editor in chief of Rotten Tomatoes.
“I think this particular year you are seeing more movies that are getting acclaim, hitting with audiences and that will likely show up at the Oscars,” said Atchity, adding how some awards-hungry films in recent years have underperformed at the box office. “It is a little unusual to see those three break all together with the same films at the end of the year.”
A handful of Oscar hopefuls are still to come this year, which may also hit that same sweet spot with audiences and critics alike. “The Hobbit,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Les Miserables,” “Django Unchained,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “This Is 40” could all be films that unite the critics and mainstream audiences, a divide that has at times seems unconquerable. Let us never forget “Taken 2.”
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Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter: @IndieFocus
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